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Happy at work?

Pierre Battah (2013)

While Pharrell William's infectious monster hit "Happy" has us all singing "Because I'm Happy..." it was Abe Lincoln who famously said "most people are as happy as they let themselves be". Modern psychology has helped us understand that although happiness is in part hardwired, it is also largely malleable which is good news for employers.

Psychologists, economists and neuroscientist have become fascinated with the study of emotions in the last generation and given that "How are you?" is probably the most popular question in the world it should come as no surprise that countries poll their citizen's wellbeing and employers are interested in measuring worker happiness and wellbeing.

The link between happiness and worker productivity is very well researched and conclusive as is the fact that perception of work climate greatly impacts wellbeing. The myth that increased pressure increases work performance has given way to the reality that happiness increases performance. So happy people work harder, are more productive and come up with more new ideas.

We know that what gets measured gets managed so again no surprise that managers are paying more attention to surveys that help them understand what drives their employee's state of happiness and engagement. Interestingly the connection between happiness and meaningful work has captured the attention of effective leaders worldwide.

Authors Dave and Wendy Ulrich in the Why of Work helped us understand the critical link between worker happiness doing meaningful work. They remind us that we all find meaning in work that makes us feel valued, develops our skills and most notably allows us to excel not to mention work that connects us to our employer's purpose.

While formal surveys are necessary for evidence based insight, Susan David of the Harvard/McLean Institute of Coaching has a short set of questions that any leader can ask to determine how happy their organisation is. The questions range from enjoyable relationships to how much laughter you hear and whether employees feel they are a part of something that matters.

I think Harvard's Teresa Amabile has it right when she connects worker happiness to a manager's ability to facilitate employee accomplishment and "support staff's everyday progress". The simple yet effective role for supervisors of "removing obstacles, providing help and acknowledging strong effort" certainly rings true for any leader looking to bolster happiness and as result, productivity and innovation. There may just be a lot more "Because I'm Happy..." being sung in workplaces as a result.

Listen to Pierre on Information Morning with Vanessa Blanch.

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Pierre Battah appears on Information Morning Moncton every Monday morning after the 7:30 news and sports. You can follow his blog at

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